It’s Okay to Geek Out: Morgan Aprill Says “Thanks”

This past May, I found myself crying while sitting in a room full of English staff and students as I was announced as an outstanding graduating senior along with Brittany Means. I was shocked and so thankful for the recognition. Embarrassed and so happy, I accepted the award from Dr. Debbie Mix. I’m glad my work was enough to get me recognized, but I’d like to take this time to thank the people who have taught me and worked with me these past few years. Though I may have earned this recognition for my studies and ambition, I want to make it clear how grateful I am for all the amazing opportunities I had at Ball State and in the English Department.

In the Classroom

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Aprill presents her research at the “Digital Literature Review” Gala

I’ve taken part in the Honors program and enjoyed learning about myself alongside Dr. Andrea Wolfe through the humanities sequence.

I learned what kind of writing is expected in literature classes in the first class I took with Debbie.

I laughed at Dr. Robert Habich’s jokes in his American literature courses and marveled at his stories of visiting Walden Pond and various authors’ homes.

I learned about a religion I’d never studied before with Dr. Adam Beach in his British slave narratives class.

I finally had a chance to properly geek out about my favorite author, Charlotte Brontë, in Dr. Joyce Huff’s Victorian literature course, a graduate course she graciously let me take as just a senior undergrad.

And I grew close with my fellow students working on the department’s first undergraduate research journal, the Digital Literature Review, first as an editorial team member and then as the head of the publicity team.

Outside the Classroom

Last summer I worked as a social media intern at the Midwest Writers Workshop, held each year here at the Alumni Center.

I’ve worked at the Writing Center as a tutor and grew a love for teaching and felt a purpose that got me through my darkest bouts of depression, something I’ve quietly struggled with for a few years now.

My job and my courses gave me something to look forward to. They gave me hope as I sat around feeling pretty lost and pointless. Even though things seemed dark, at least I was studying what I loved and sharing what I was good at with others. Though I felt alone often, I had the support of my instructors and my love of language that kept me going on. And as I’ve always been a nerd, I had my research to keep me excited.

Outside Ball State

On top of this, I had opportunities like the one that came this past spring where I got to hear one of my favorite gender theorists talk.

During the meeting in the Writing Center when our director Jackie Grutsch McKinney had first mentioned the possibility of seeing Judith Butler speak the evening before our upcoming conference, I felt a wave of excitement come over me. I quickly asked Jackie to make sure those of us who were going would be able to attend Butler’s talk. The East Central Writing Center Association Conference was being held that weekend at Notre Dame. I’d never been there but I had heard it was a pretty campus and a hard college to get into. I was excited to see Butler and to get a glimpse of another college that was so old.

Butler

Madison Netherton (left) and Morgan Aprill (right)

Luckily, I was able to convince my co-worker Madison Netherton to go up the night before to see Butler with me. She hadn’t heard of her or read her work so I tried to give her an explanation as we drove up in the university car we’d rented that afternoon. Butler’s theory of gender as performative had always been striking to me, especially when we consider things like how pink and blue are associated with opposite genders yet in the past those gendered colors were the opposite. I did not know what she might address in her discussion, but I knew it would talk about structures of power and conformity in some way.

After checking into the hotel, we hurried over to the building where she was speaking, the same building we’d be coming to the next two days to attend various talks and workshops about writing center pedagogy. Butler gave a lecture addressing recent events and how to spread peace and justice in a time where unarmed civilians are being cut down by police. She talked about the integral relationships between the self and community, power and submission. I thought it was a brilliant discussion and stood around awkwardly for a bit trying to decide if it’d be appropriate or not for me to try and ask her for a picture. Embarrassed and sure she’d be annoyed I just left and got dinner with Madison.

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Aprill (center) and her co-presenters at ECWCA 2015

The next two days I geeked out in another way. I attended the ECWCA conference at Miami University the previous  year and loved attending sessions given by others working in my area. They talked about how to handle situations in the Writing Center, research they were conducting on tutoring methods, and ideas for new practice. I’m especially interested in discussions of foreign language writing tutoring within a traditional writing center as well as helping speakers of other languages who are learning English. Last year, I presented on the research I had been conducting in this area with then WC director Jennifer Grouling-Snider and Spanish professor Lisa Kuriscak.

Outside the English Department

For the past year I have been a writing fellow for Lisa’s Spanish composition classes, providing an extra resource for them to use when working on their compositions. We’ve been analyzing the attitudes and actions of students in these classes and how well a writing fellow model could be used in foreign language classes as a way to aid in more kinds of university writing in the future at our writing center. We are just now finishing our work and we hope to take all of the data we’ve collected and publish an article on it in the future. I hope to keep working research with Lisa and Jennifer even after I graduate.

It All Comes Together in the End

I’m not sure what I’m doing in the next month let alone the next year but I know that I love research and discussing language. I’ve loved everything I’ve done during my years here as an English major. Being able to attend conferences on writing center pedagogy has been so interesting and insightful. I’m an undergraduate and I’ve already presented twice at research conferences thank to the Writing Center and the English Department. I’ve had some amazing instructors who have encouraged me and helped nurture my voice as a researcher and writer.

I hope to eventually pursue my master’s in linguistics and TESOL. My time here has only made my love of language grow more and I think my nerdiness has been apparent. Debbie Mix especially has been my fan and mentor these past few years and it is her who I can blame for my love of Judith Butler. The geeky girl who first sat in Dr. Mix’s class her sophomore year hopes to keep being geeky wherever else she goes after graduation.

I guess what I’m trying to say with this blog post is thanks, BSU English. You were my home these past three years. I have had great opportunities and my geeky self was embraced by my instructors. During my darkest hours I had the support of my professors and I am so glad I had this experience. My graduation is bittersweet but who knows someday I might end up back here. As a student or maybe as an instructor.

Thank you, BSU English. It’s been a great ride.

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